Ian Baker - My key Ashes men
24 Nov 2010 - 10:03:49
Just hours to go now until the Ashes opener in Brisbane - so I hope all UK based readers have recharged themselves on sleep and have fridges full of Red Bull.
Whether you are staying up all night, watching the first session before hitting the sack or getting up midway through the night, it promises to be worth it.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I think England will cruise it. But there are three key men on each side and how they perform could well decide it.
England's captain has led the side in exemplary fashion, on and off the field. He knows this is the big one, he is probably in the form of his life, and should come good on Australian wickets.
But Australian bowlers have hinted at a return to bodyline, suggesting that Strauss is weak on the short-pitched ball.
Forget the England team as a whole, whether KP rediscovers his form could be one of the biggest factors in deciding the Ashes. Almost single-handedly helped England to draw the 2005 Oval Test and thus regain the Ashes, Pietersen is a man who gets under the skin of opposition.
Australia have suggested that he is a disruptive influence on the England side but Pietersen will want to ignore the mind games. No Test centuries in nearly two years may be hard for him but a big century in the first Test will put all selection doubts to one side.
No.2 bowler in the world, No.1 spinner. This could well be the series that Swann turns from genuine match winner to one of the greatest cricketers that has ever lived. He's bang up for it, enthusiastic and just cannot wait to take on the Aussie batsmen.
In the twilight of his career and under pressure as captain but he will be the wicket England will be desperate for. Capable of monster innings - regardless of whether his side are winning or losing.
Just think Old Trafford 2005, Brisbane 2006, Adelaide 2006 and Cardiff 2009. That's enough to give all England bowlers nightmares.
Woefully out of form and at last having difficulty with Test cricket, a game that looked so easy to him when he first started.
England have never liked playing against him and he is a man that can prove very frustrating to bowlers, particularly if his team-mates have got Australia off to a flier. Averages over 55 against England.
Flattered to deceive in 2009 where he struggled to adapt to English conditions and gave away too many freebies. But he still took 20 wickets and back in Australian conditions, could give England a very tough ride indeed.
He is also making all the right noises - and clearly has learned from Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne in regard to the pre-series verbal.